Because the General Assembly session begins next Wednesday, a number of local and statewide politicians who cannot legally raise money during the session are cramming fundraisers into the last few days before the session begins. Originally I was going to focus on a luncheon fundraiser being held in Ocean City by Delegate (and Senate candidate) Mike McDermott on Monday which will feature Congressman Andy Harris.
But at the same time at the BWI Marriott, Delegate (and gubernatorial candidate) Ron George will host what he calls a “Pre-Session Business Legislative Luncheon” with Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group. As is the case for McDermott, Ron’s hosting a fundraiser, and an important one. While others in the gubernatorial race on both sides can still raise funds through various means, Ron would be stymied for 90 days – unless he went through an unusual route, one which fellow Delegate Heather Mizeur is already taking.
A loophole in state campaign finance laws allows guberatorial candidates who accept public financing to raise their “seed money” during the legislative session, and Ron is reportedly considering the idea. It would place a spending cap on his campaign (as it would Mizeur’s) but where Mizeur would be dwarfed in spending by her Democratic primary counterparts who already have millions to spend, George wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the amounts his competitors are expected to raise in the primary.
Campaign finance of a different sort has grabbed the headlines of late, but while Ron George is within his legal right to do so why does he feel like he’s perhaps forced to dip into taxpayer funds to run a campaign? The flip side of pay-to-play – besides limiting the government in an effort to starve the beast – is that I think there should be no restrictions on political giving except one, that being rapid disclosure. This would eliminate the artificial wall of separation between a politician in session and fundraising – do you honestly think a large donor isn’t going to expect his back scratched whether he gives on September 1 when the legislature is off or on March 1 during session?
Interestingly, the campaign finance reform George sponsored last year will allow counties to have their own public campaign financing (see page 39 here). So we may be dealing with more taxpayer financing of campaigns in the future, and not less. Yet we’ll still be stuck with the slow campaign finance reporting process where, for example, a contribution made January 1, 2012 isn’t reported until mid-January the next year. Granted, the reporting pace is faster during election years but still runs weeks to months behind.
We have an internet – why not use it and put campaign treasurers to work supplying us information we can use in a timely fashion?